For UCLA, it's a critical July, with a few aspects of its recruiting a bit different than it was just a few weeks ago.
First, assistant Ernie Zeigler will be on the road, but wearing a shirt that says "Central Michigan" rather than UCLA. With Zeigler at CMU as its head coach, this last week UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland announced that video coordinator Scott Garson is the new third assistant. Garson will be out in July for the first time in his new capacity, and it will be interesting to watch the staff's new dynamics for the recruiting evaluation period.
It's pretty well accepted that Kerry Keating, who is easily one of the best recruiting assistants in the country and has been the prime force in Bruin recruiting since he was hired by Howland three years ago, will be even more of an influence. When Howland was in Pittsburgh and Northern Arizona, he came to trust his long-time assistant, Jamie Dixon, and Dixon had a great deal of influence and power in Howland's recruiting. Keating was new to Howland when he hired him, even though he came highly recommended, but it has taken three very proficient years in basically running UCLA recruiting for Howland to be close to trusting Keating in the same way he trusted Dixon.
The evaluation period is primarily about the class of 2007, but UCLA's class of 2006 has yet to be settled, and it's critical to the class of 2007. Marko Spica, the 6-9 post from Serbia, who has signed a National Letter of Intent, took his last attempt at the SAT in early June, and his academics are now at the NCAA Clearing House. His fellow countryman, 6-7 Nikola Dragovic, has also done the same. While Dragovic is considered the better prospect, and more than likely UCLA would like to have his skills next season, the word is that Spica probably has a better chance of getting through the Clearing House. A source indicated that neither got the score UCLA was hoping they would, but with both having improved GPAs and the fairly hard-to-define requirements for foreign prospects, UCLA is hoping that at least one qualifies.
While Dragovic might serve the program better in the short term, Spica could be a vital part in the long-term, especially if UCLA does in fact get the #2 rated player in the country in the 2007 class, Kevin Love from Lake Oswego (Calif.) High. The feeling is still that UCLA leads for Love, after Love's various unofficial visits to campus last week while he was in town on vacation visiting relatives with his father, Stan. Spica might serve better if Love comes to UCLA and he does, indeed, leave after one or two years in the program. While it's difficult to forecast since so much can happen in a couple of years, but if UCLA got Love and he then went pro after a year or two, there is only one post player in the program now who would be on the roster for the 2009 season, James Keefe, and Keefe is more of a face-up four.
So, if UCLA gets Spica, it gets some considerable insurance in the post position. If it doesn't get Spica, it will probably look to get some insurance in the post position, possibly either by a recruit in the 2007 or 2008 class.
But this is if, in fact, UCLA doesn't get Kyle Singler, the #6-ranked player in the nation from Medford (Ore.) South Medford.
UCLA already has a commitment from the 2007 class, as we know, from Chace Stanback, the 6-6 small forward from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. If UCLA got Love, the fate of Spica/Dragovic would determine whether UCLA even officially had a scholarship for the very talented Singler. However, it's expected that Arron Afflalo will put his name into the draft after next year, so the scholarship could come from that, or someone else perhaps leaving the program early for the pros after next season, like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who could just be a reliable jump shot away from being a lottery pick.
Let's say, also, that UCLA doesn't get Singler, but gets Love, which many think is the likely scenario, with Singler possibly leaning to Duke. Whether UCLA gets one of Spica/Dragovic would determine whether they'd give out another scholarship to the 2007 class beyond Love and Stanback. UCLA's mindset, probably, is that if an elite point guard wanted to jump in the boat, great. But it would most likely use the scholarship on a post player, because of the looming post-Love scenarios we laid out above. UCLA could then be shopping for a post player in the 2007 or 2008 class, depending on the prospect. UCLA could very well opt to take someone like 6-10 Clint Chapman from Canby (Ore.) High, who is part of the 2007 class. Chapman has grown two inches in the last year and has emerged as a legit high major post, but a project. His mother went to UCLA and the word is that the parents would love to see him in Westwood. He recently participated in UCLA's Advanced Skills Camp, and it was clear that the staff liked him. If UCLA took him, it could be with the intention for him to redshirt, which would essentially make him part of the 2008 class. If Love then went pro, and after the class of Ryan Wright and Alfred Aboya graduated, Chapman (or any other 2007 post) would be in line to be the starting five at UCLA as a redshirt sophomore, which could be considerably attractive.
So, UCLA will be watching Chapman this July, along with Scott Thompson, the 6-11 center from the 2007 class who also came to UCLA's camp and fared well, and any other emerging posts in the 2007 class.
UCLA could hear about the fate of Spica and Dragovic fairly soon, during July in fact, and that will affect their focus in the evaluation period.
So, for 2007 prospects UCLA will be watching this July, you have Love (who will attend the Reebok ABCD Camp in New Jersey), Singler (Nike Camp), Stanback (presumably ABCD), and Chapman (probably ABCD), Thompson (Adidas Camp in Atlanta?), and any other elite prospects that could emerge with UCLA high on its list. It will be interesting to see how UCLA's relationship with Alex Legion, the 6-4 elite shooting guard from Michigan, now changes with the loss of Zeigler, since Zeigler was the main contact for Legon. That goes for Corperrayle Harris, the 6-4 combo guard from Michigan, as well.
With its targets fairly well recognized in the 2007 class, UCLA will also use the evaluation period to try to get some things sorted out in the 2008 class. It's very well known that UCLA will be looking to add a point guard from the 2008 class, and this evaluation period could go a long way in determining who that might be. Coming out of UCLA's camp last week, Jerime Anderson, the 6-1 point from Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon, and Larry Drew, the 5-11 guard from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft, both looked fairly close in terms of ability. Malcolm Lee, the 6-3 guard from Riverside (Calif.) North, was slated to attend but didn't because of a sprained ankle. After having gotten a good look at both Anderson and Drew in its camp, UCLA will probably then take July to get a good look at Lee, and then try to determine which of the three it prefers and possibly then tender a scholarship offer to that recruit.
Anderson could be slightly leading Drew at this point, with Lee, having missed the camp, the unknown contender. Anderson is a great fit for UCLA, and it's pretty well-known that he's leaning heavily to UCLA and that he could very well commit if offered. It also helps that Anderson is close with Jrue Holiday, the 6-3 shooting guard from North Hollywood (Calif.) High and the #3 player currently in the 2008 class in the nation. The relationship Anderson has with Holiday, the two having known each other since they were small, could be another factor that tilts in favor of Anderson, since he could help lasso Holiday. Lee will be the wrench in this if, perhaps after evaluating him this summer, UCLA determines he's clearly the best of the three. And even if they do determine that, UCLA could very well offer Lee and Anderson. Holiday's recruitment is more than likely going to be a drawn-out affair, and UCLA could very well take all three, if it were so inclined and had the scholarships to give.
The word is also that Washington is the favorite for Drew, with Husky coach Lorenzo Romar doing a very good job of recruiting him and Drew's mother being a former Washington cheerleader.
So, for the July evaluation period for the 2008 class, UCLA will be evaluating the point guards – Lee, Anderson and Drew – along with any others that could emerge as UCLA prospects. They'll be also be looking for 2008 posts, and trying to determine if there's a 2008 big man out there who would be better than taking a 2007 post that they could then redshirt and have in the UCLA system for a year. And, always, UCLA will be looking for any elite talent in the 2008 class that likes the Bruins.
Bruin Report Online will be attending the Adidas and Reebok ABCD Camps this week. Frank Burlison will stop into the Nike Camp to give us a report. So, stay tuned to BRO for what goes down in the next few critical days as the July evaluation period kicks off.